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Mugwort

Artemisia vulgaris

  • Name also: Common Wormwood (USA, see Wormwood A. absinthium)
  • Family: Daisy Family – Compositae, subfamily Asteroideae
    (formerly Aster Family – Asteraceae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 50–150(–200) cm (20–60(–80 in.). Many-branched. Stem woody at base, grooved, usually sparsely haired, dark reddish brown. Usually with only weak herb-like fragrance.
  • Flower: Single flower-like 2.5–3 mm (1–1.2 in.) capitula surrounded by involucral bracts. Capitula’s ray-florets lacking. Stamens 5. Pistil of 2 fused carpels. Involucre long, involucral bracts in several rows, fine-haired. Capitula erect, in a racemose cluster.
  • Leaves: Alternate, lower short-stalked, upper stalkless, stipulate. Blade deeply pinnately lobed, top green, sparsely haired, underside white-haired (sometimes both sides downy). Lobes quite narrow, usually tapered, with sparsely toothed margins, margin flat (sometimes revolute).
  • Fruit: Long, almost glossy, yellowish, approx. 1.8 mm (0.072 in.) long achene.
  • Habitat: Wasteland, roadsides, railway yards, field margins, yards, meadows, lake and sea shores. Also an old useful plant and ornamental. Nitrophile.
  • Flowering time: August–October.

Genus Artemisia takes its name from the Ancient Greek deity Artemis, who promoted new life in the human and animal kingdom, particularly as a protector of those giving birth, and mugwort tincture was thus thought to help ease women’s troubles. There have also been attempts to cure many other diseases, including epilepsy, with mugwort, and it has been used in place of hops in beer-making as bird food. As a charm it was believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits, wild animals, poisoning, fire, water and lightning strikes! It is an impressive-looking plant that has also been cultivated as an ornamental and it can still be found in the flower bed in the odd isolated Finnish yard. It branches up to two metres (6.5 feet) high and virtually looks like a bush. Its woody stems survive the winter and stick up through the snow.

Nowadays mugwort is regarded as an everyday weed that grows on waste ground and road-sides and which is a nuisance at the end of the summer to those with allergies as it is able to produce quite severe symptoms, even making it impossible for sufferers to leave their house while it is flowering. Its flowers are wind-pollinated so it produces a lot of pollen. Vigorous efforts have been made in places to get rid of the plant, and removing it from nearby yards can do a lot to alleviate symptoms. It is almost impossible to completely eradicate it however as the rootstock overwinters in the ground and there are a huge amount of seeds in the soil. Additionally, the pollen floats a long way on the air currents.

Most Finnish mugworts are var. vulgaris. It is often the most common species on light-filled, nitrogenous and recently-disturbed waste ground until it has to gradually give way to better competitors. The rare native var. coarctata, which differs slightly from the main form, grows on the shores of the Gulfs of Finland and Bothnia, although sometimes it can be found on waste ground far from the shore. Its leaves’ lobes are narrower, its margins are revolute and it begins to bloom a couple of weeks later. Intermediate forms have also been observed. Relatives of mugwort that grow in Finland are wormwood (A. absinthium), whose flowers are yellowish and whose strongly fragrant leaves are silver-haired on both sides, and delicate and narrow-leaved field wormwood (A. campestris).

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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